The Wesley Willis Tower
Unlike most of the central figures in Chicago’s mid-nineties alternative-rock gold rush, Wesley Willis’ legacy remains untarnished by time. As one of the city’s most beloved outsider musicians and artists, he was, figuratively and literally, a towering figure in the scene. In a town that’s been slow to acknowledge its African-American heroes, it’s time to pay tribute to Willis, who passed away in 2003, with a lasting memorial in Wicker Park’s eponymous green space. Make it a bronze, Sears Tower-shaped monument, featuring reproductions of his intricate sketches of local architecture, and emblazoned with his unforgettable call to arms: “Rock over London, rock on Chicago.”
Best of Chicago 2010
Quick. Raise your hand if you think it’ll still be Willis Tower in thirty years. Didn’t think so. In this age of naming rights being sold with little regard to public consciousness, the public needs to retake the vernacular by nicknaming such buildings. We like “Big Black” for its powerful directness, a nickname that seems to match the building’s gritty posture in our sky. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s also the name of a seminal eighties rock band from Chicago, but we’ll keep that our little secret.
Best of Chicago 2009
Look, we’re not going to top that opening ceremony, with the dude running sideways in the sky, nor are we easily gonna top the sheer scale and wonder of the new architecture created in Beijing (though we should not lower our standards, by any means). But we can really outdo Beijing in one area, and that is public discourse. What’s more American than showing that we can put on a great show without locking up all the voices of dissent? The Olympics can stand for much more than a showcase for what Chicago is; it can be a forum for building consensus on what Chicago can be. This won’t be easy to accomplish, since Chicago government often resembles the one in Beijing more than the one in Washington, with a single party ruling with authoritarian power. But it’s worth a try.
Better air quality
Audience Comments: “Age requirements for gymnasts”; “Athletes to compete in the nude: Just like in old school Athens”; “Build an underwater Olympic City in Lake Michigan”;“Completely overhaul/redo the transit system. Create traffic lane for carpoolers”;“Don’t do anything Beijing did…i.e. stifle dissent, shut down industries, limit auto use…”; “Have Barney in the stands to distract their Gymnasts”; “Include bungee jumping off the Sears tower”
Best of Chicago 2008
No other building or monument, neither the Sears Tower nor Buckingham Fountain, represents Chicago like Wrigley Field, thanks in no small part to WGN-TV’s national telecasts in the eighties and nineties. An oasis of baseball standing in the middle of a neighborhood, there are parts of Wrigley you can close your eyes and see in a day-game dream: the ivy, the exposed brick, the old-fashioned scoreboard, the Old Style, the bleachers. Hands down the best place to watch a baseball game in the country, regardless of the teams on the field. And remember folks, as Chicagoans, it is your God-given right to blow off work and catch a day game. Don’t do it too often, and you won’t get fired.
Corner of Addison and Clark (800)843-2827
Best of Chicago 2002